Morrison, Berard, Kelley, Caraker announce college athletic plans

  • Amherst senior Becky Caraker signs her National Letter of Intent to play soccer at Eckerd College in Florida. COURTESY AMHERST REGIONAL

  • Jon Morrison, from left, Nathan Kelley and Hannah Berard made their college athletic plans official on Friday. Morrison signed to play baseball at Division I Rhode Island. Kelley (baseball) and Berard (soccer) will play at Castleton and Widener, respectively. MOLLIE WALKER

For the Gazette
Published: 2/9/2018 7:10:54 PM

HADLEY — Hopkins Academy held a signing day for three athletes Friday afternoon.

“I’ve wanted to be a baseball player for as a long as I can remember,” senior Jon Morrison said just moments after signing his National Letter of Intent to play for the Division I Rhode Island.

Morrison was joined by classmates Hannah Berard and Nathan Kelley at a ceremony in the school’s gymnasium.

Berard has committed to play Division III soccer for Widener and Kelley will play Division III baseball for Castleton.

“I think (URI) was the best fit for me academically and baseball-wise,” Morrison said. “I see a future for myself there.”

The senior was particularly drawn to the ‘down to Earth’ coaching staff as well as the fact that a pair of players from western Massachusetts recently ventured to Kingston, Rhode Island, to continue their baseball careers. Tyler Wilson (Palmer) is a junior pitcher for the Rams. Steve Moyers (East Longmeadow) graduated in 2016.

Morrison verbally committed to URI in the fall of 2016.

“I was looking for a school that I really liked whether baseball was there or not,” Morrison said.

While he was looking for a school, the right-handed pitcher weighed the potential in the programs, visualizing his future with the teams and the opportunities he could have.

“I just want to go out there and keep playing baseball and play at the highest level I can,” Morrison said. “I think if I work hard I’ll be able to have opportunities and I just have to make the most of those opportunities when I get them.”

Berard envisioned herself playing soccer in college, following the footsteps of her cousins who played collegiate sports.

“I’m not ready to stop (playing) after my senior year,” Berard said.

The defenseman liked the idea of going to college near a city. She believes getting to work close to hospitals will significantly help with her goal of becoming a psychologist.

Weighing heavily on the size of the university, Berard fell in love with the 3,500-student private school 14 miles outside of Philadelphia.

Berard found Widener coach Kelly Wakeman before she found Widener.

“I actually met the coach when I was a freshman. She was at a different school and I wasn’t too sure about that school,” Berard said. “When she moved to Widener (in 2017) she called me and she was like ‘I think you’ll like this school a lot better.’”

Kelley’s recruiting experience can be credited to a recruiting website. That is how three-time North Atlantic Conference champion Castleton found him.

“The assistant coach texted me to come up, visit, and do a prospect clinic,” Kelley said. “They liked me, I liked it. It was fairly laid back and easy.”

The three-year varsity player was looking for a small school, similar to Hopkins Academy, and got the opportunity to sit in on a class during his visit to Castleton.

Kelley looked forward to being a part of a successful team that will be transitioning into the Little East Conference next season.

“I liked the school a lot, even without baseball I think I still would’ve gone there,” Kelley said. “Even if I don’t play that much I can still have moral support and help the guys get through the season. If I get my shot, I’ll hopefully do good when I get that shot.”

BECKY CARAKER, AMHERST REGIONAL SOCCER — Caraker started her recruiting process completely focused on soccer. As it progressed, she gradually factored academics more into the equation.

Once she realized she wanted to study marine science, Caraker researched the top schools for it. Eckerd College ranked third in the country and featured a Division II soccer program.

Caraker went down to Florida in October for a visit and training after emailing coach Danielle Fotopoulos.

Fotopoulos saw Caraker at the camp and offered her a spot.

“The coach was very persistent,” Caraker said. “I felt needed.”

She signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Tritons this week.

Playing for Fotopoulos also attracted Caraker. The Tritons coach won the 1998 FIFA World Cup with the U.S. and is the leading scorer in NCAA Division I history from her time at Florida.

More than anything, she’s looking forward to studying her major and living in Saint Petersburg.

“It’ll be a great change,” Caraker said. “I loved the campus.”

Staff writer Kyle Grabowski contributed to this report.

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